Dubai goldAP Photo/Kamran Jebreili

The Dubai Municipality has hit on an unusual way to encourage residents to lose weight: they are running a scheme for the next 30 days, where participants can win a gram of gold for every kilogram of weight they lose.

So why are they running the scheme, and could it work here?

Obesity

Dubai has become increasingly worried about obesity among residents. The United Arab Emirates is the fifth fattest nation in the world, and the population collectively carries 17 million tonnes of excess weight.

Junk food and over-eating is a major contributing factor. The average person in the UAE eats more than 3,000 calories a day. However relatively sedentary lifestyles do not help either.

Dubai launched a walking scheme last year, and this year is stepping up its efforts with this programme - called You are Worth Your Weight in Gold.

The scheme

The first weigh-in is today, and the final one is on 16 August. Participants will get guidance on healthy weight loss, and then are free to lose as much as they want as long as they stick within the rules.

They'll have to lose at least two kilos before qualifying for any gold. At that point they will receive about £30 worth of gold for each kilo they lose.

The three who lose the most will be entered into a draw to win a gold coin worth $5,400.

The scheme is running during Ramadam, which sees a month of fasting, which could help boost the success rate. Hussain Nasser Lootah, Director General of Dubai Municipality said in a statement: "Ramadan is the most appropriate season to launch such initiatives as it reminds us about many health benefits of reducing weight and encourages us to take strong steps to change our bad lifestyles."

Would it work here?

The NHS has already trailed the idea of financial incentives for weight loss in the UK, where slimmers are paid for losing weight. They could make anything from £200 for losing two stone in five months, to almost £425 for more stretching targets. The result of the trial was that people did lose more weight this way. However, there is no news as to whether the scheme will become NHS policy.

Other studies have shown that financial incentives can help people lose weight. However, over the long-term, participants struggle to keep the weight off. The NHS may decide it's not worth spending money on this - given that in a few years time the same people may be back, ready to be paid another £200 for losing exactly the same weight all over again.